A magical Christmas holiday in Tallinn

Source: Malle Kolnes

A magical Christmas holiday in Tallinn

Snowflakes float down over the red rooftops and cobblestone streets. Candles and fairy lights illuminate cafe windows, beckoning you in for a cup of hot mulled wine. Whether you've come to see the legendary Christmas tree or just want to experience a white, snowy winter, this is your guide to Christmas in Tallinn.

Though the nights may be dark, winter is when you find Tallinn at its most enchanting. We're not the only ones who think so; tens of thousands of UK travel magazine Wanderlust's readers voted Tallinn the seventh most desirable city in Europe to visit in 2023. From the end of November, visitors can come and make wishes under the lush Christmas tree towering over Town Hall Square. December brings high spirits, bright lights, and a festive mood to Tallinn's churches, shops, and city streets.

A dusting of snow makes the lights twinkle even brighter.

Tallinn Christmas Market

Photo by: Riho Kirss

A timeless tradition

Tallinn's main attraction is the world-famous Christmas market held on the Town Hall Square. In 2019, the Tallinn Christmas Market was named the Best Christmas Market in Europe and is still considered one of Europe's best Christmas markets to visit in 2023. Wind your way through wooden market stalls radiating from an enormous tree at the center of the square. Shop for handicrafts; woolen mittens, sweaters and wooden ornaments make memorable gifts. Warm up with a cup of glögi (with or without alcohol). Nibble on a gingerbread cookie, or fill a plate with sausage, potatoes, and sauerkraut. Children can see Santa, who also doubles as a multilingual MC for the weekend performances that take place on the stage. This year, the market is open from 1 December 2023 until 7 January 2024.

Where to stay

The snowy landscape outside might feel a bit frosty, so snuggle up with your loved ones in a unique hotel with first-class comfort and charm. Tallinn's medieval Old Town is the ideal place to stay during a wintertime trip to Estonia. Stay on one of the winding streets lined with historic buildings, and you'll be a stone's throw away from the Town Hall Square and its famous Christmas tree.

Hotel Telegraaf began its life as a post office and telephone centre in 1878 but has since been renovated into a modern 5-star establishment. Guests at My City Hotel can enjoy an extensive collection of Italian art that decorates the walls, as well as fresh baked breakfasts and an in-house spa, all without leaving the Old Town. The recently opened Nunne Boutique Hotel is also a good option for those who like history with a touch of luxury. Located near the medieval city walls, this hotel has an optimal location near Balti Jaam market and Toompark, the green area right outside Old Town.

Stop for a hot drink in the Master's Courtyard

Photo by: Rasmus Jurkatam, Visit Tallinn

For elegant yet budget-friendly accommodation, look just outside the Old Town. For a taste of "manor elegance right in the heart of Tallinn," book a room at the Von Stackelberg Hotel, the 19th-century city estate of Baron von Stackelberg. Each room at the family-friendly Original Sokos Hotel Viru in the city centre is different and highlights the work of Estonian interior designers. The Park Inn by Radisson Central Tallinn is around the corner from the lively Rotermanni Quarter.

Wherever you decide to stay, you'll be able to reach the Old Town relatively quickly and easily, whether you're on foot or traveling on Tallinn's efficient tram, bus, or trolley lines.

Where and what to eat

Estonian food, traditional or modern, changes throughout the year, with each season boasting its own unique flavours. At a genuine Estonian Christmas dinner, you'll find roast potatoes and pork, sauerkraut, black pudding with pickled pumpkin, and lingonberry jam. Try some of these typical foods at the Christmas market in Tallinn. If you're craving something sweet, pop into any shop, café, or wine bar for a hot drink of your choice. Of course, mulled wine and hot chocolate are the most popular options — and don't forget the crispy gingerbread cookies!

A colorful plate filled with hearty winter dishes

A traditional Christmas dinner in Estonia

Photo by: Kairi Tähe 

For a taste of modern Estonian food, head over to trendy Kalamaja for some of the best restaurants in Estonia. Lore Bistro, a MICHELIN Bib Gourmand restaurant, is right by the water in the up-and-coming Noblessner area, or stop by Ülo, a stylish, vegetarian-friendly restaurant near Balti Jaam market. 

Looking for more options? Then check out this article dedicated entirely to Christmas foods in Estonia and where to eat them.

What to do

Despite this being the darkest time of the year, Tallinn is glowing with warmth, light, and cheerful energy. Check out Visit Tallinn's calendar for the latest seasonal events, including a Christmas jazz festival and Gingerbread Mania, an exhibition dedicated entirely to displays made out of gingerbread. Every evening offers an opportunity to see something new in the city's cinemas, concert and theatre halls, churches, pubs, and nightclubs.

Enjoy the view from the ice

Ice skating rink on Harju Street in Old Town

Photo by: HK Hall OÜ

Learn about the winter rhythms of rural life at the Estonian Open Air Museum. Their winter schedule is filled with activities for visitors of all ages, and on December 17 and 18, they host a Christmas Village where you can take part in Estonian Christmas traditions from different historical eras, including a fair around the inn and a visit from Santa Claus. This unique way of learning about the past is one of the reasons why the Open Air Museum is consistently one of the top museums in Tallinn.   

While you're at the Christmas market, visit the Town Hall Pharmacy, found in the same square as the market. It's the oldest continually operating pharmacy in Europe, dating back to 1422. You can look at the old rooms for free or participate in a medicinal workshop.

Estonia is a seafaring nation in all seasons, and the Seaplane Harbour Museum tells this story through interactive exhibits. Climb aboard a decommissioned icebreaking ship, discover the inside of a submarine, and marvel at the exhibits inside what was once a massive hangar by the sea. The Kumu Art Museum in Kadriorg is an impressive modern artwork itself and was awarded the European Museum of the Year in 2008. Check out the permanent Estonian collection or any of their Christmastime workshops.

Download the digital Tallinn Card or buy a Museum Card to make the most of your time in town.

Go for a hike in a wintery forest and enjoy Estonia's exceptionally clean air.

Nature is nearby, even when you're visiting Tallinn.

Photo by: Anneli Arusaar

Outdoor enthusiasts can glide across the ice at the rink in Old Town or fly down a hill in a sled at the Song Festival Grounds. If you can manage to free yourself of Old Town's enchantment, then take in the true winter wonderland that awaits you outside of Tallinn. Snowshoe through a bog or see a frozen waterfall — or do both on the same day and get back to the city in time for dinner. 

Rekindle your Christmas spirit in Tallinn!

Last updated : 14.12.2023

In category: Tallinn, Shopping